Well, it’s been another bruising week of news stories, and I felt the need to distract myself and perhaps you, dear readers, at least for a little while. So, I’m taking up Nancy’s “15 Random Facts Blogging Challenge.” With a slight twist. I was lucky enough to wander down many roads in my younger days. And had a few things gone differently, I may have turned out to be a whole other kind of butterfly.
1. When I was in my twenties, I endeavored, somewhat seriously, though not very ambitiously, to be a rock star. Which leads to #2.
2. For several months, I fronted a blues/rock band as the lead singer. Until, that is, the lead guitarist and the rhythm guitarist had a huge fight at rehearsal one day and decided not to play with each other — or the rest of us — anymore. Since between them, they owned nearly all of our sound equipment, that was the end of the band. I don’t even remember now what we called ourselves. The rest of my aborted rock singing career was much of a piece, sad to say. Would-be rock musicians are not the most dependable colleagues.
3. My audition song for the above band was “Jailhouse Rock,” made famous by Elvis Presley. This was sung at the band’s request. Yes, I was surprised, too, that a bunch of boys mostly into people like Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton and J. J. Cale would ask for this. However, I guess I put it across, because they told me I had the gig as soon as I was done. This was after admitting that they expected me to sound like Joni Mitchell, and were astonished when I sounded more like Wanda Jackson. I told them I could, in fact, sound like Joni Mitchell if I wanted to, but I was adaptable.
4. Speaking of which, my favorite band audition, at least song-wise, was getting to sing Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love.” The thing about being a female mezzo soprano is that you can pretty much cover and even exceed the vocal range of most male rock-and-roll tenors. Robert Plant? Piece of cake, including growls and wailing the high notes. Roger Daltrey? No sweat. Musically, this particular band had decent chops, at least on Led Zeppelin tunes, and they were impressed with my vocals. But it didn’t take long for me to suss out that they were mostly interested in getting high with and laid by their imagined future groupies. No thanks, dudes. See ya.
5. Speaking of vocal imitations, I can still do a very creditable Grace Slick. “White Rabbit” and/or “Don’t You Want Somebody to Love.”
6. I’ve also been known to do a believable Stevie Nicks, which, for some reason, works really well when my allergies are acting up.
7. Yes, I can indeed sing like Joni Mitchell. One of my favorites of her songs to sing is “Blue.” Just love the opening: “Blue-oo-oo-oo-oo-hoo-hoo, songs are like tattoos. You know, I’ve been to sea before. Crown and anchor me, or let me saaaiiiilll aaaa-waaaaayyyyyyy!” Hell, I can sing the whole damn album, which, in my opinion, is still one of the greats of all time. “I am on a lonely road and I am traveling, traveling, traveling.” Truer words… Wish I could play the piano as well as she.
8. I can sort of play the piano. I used to noodle around with our beat-up piano when I was a kid. Particularly when I was the only alto in the kids’ church choir, I used to spend hours after school playing Christmas carols so I could work out the alto parts confidently. When you’re the only alto, and the only kid who can harmonize, you have to be loud. I was.
9. I can still read music, although I’m rusty. I tried, albeit not very hard, to teach myself to play the guitar when I was in high school. Secretly, I wanted to learn to play the drums. But there was this kid who lived across the street, whose parents let him practice his drum-playing in a tent on their front lawn, much to the agitation of the neighbors. I’m not sure if it was everyone’s ever-more-threatening complaints or the kid’s lack of rhythm, but the drum-playing stopped after a few months. Thereafter, I decided not to bring up my secret aspiration.
10. I did take piano lessons in my twenties. Only problem was that I didn’t have a piano in my apartment to practice on. I bought an electric keyboard, but it didn’t really lend itself to Chopin and Mozart. Then I took voice lessons to strengthen my vocal chords against the vicissitudes of singing rock songs. For that audition, inspired by Linda Ronstadt, I sang the Eagles’ song “Desperado.” Mind you, this teacher mostly taught classical singers, but she played the piano sheet music I brought gamely and ably. And when I was done, she said, “You don’t need me to teach you how to sing. You already know how to sing. But I could teach you how to stretch your voice a little.” Gosh! Naturally, I was game. Her version of “stretching” was to have me listen to and practice singing Maria Callas’s version of ‘Vissi D’Arte’ from Tosca. So help me. After several lessons, I think I was able to get through it without weeping (it’s that kind of aria). Then I got busy with other stuff and moved on.
11. That might have been around the time I went to modeling school. I had this idea that modeling paid better than running the word processing department at Boston University (my current job then). So if I could do that instead, I could make enough money working part-time so I could have more time to pursue rock stardom. Or something. In any case, it was a brief course on Wednesday nights. Best memory had to do with the photo shoot scheduled at the end of the course. Now, my dad was a photographer, and my then-boyfriend was a photographer. So, I knew from photographers. For our photo shoot, we had been instructed to bring a dressy outfit and a casual outfit. The night finally arrived, and the fashion photographer strolled in, plunked down a couple of enormous equipment bags, looked around at our nervous faces, and said, “So, have you all got your scuba-diving gear ready?” Swear to god, I was the only one who laughed. Duh. Needless to say, he and I hit it off. But he also kindly gave me the lowdown on the average income potential of modeling in Boston, which was not as much as I’d hoped, and the effort it would take to earn it, which was a lot more than it took to run a university word processing department. End of that story. Nice pix, though. Can’t find ’em, sadly.
12. At which point, I decided to take advantage of BU’s tuition reimbursement benefit and work on finishing my bachelor’s degree. I took creative writing classes. No big surprise, eh? Way fun.
13. Not, perhaps, quite as much fun as the art classes I had taken at the Massachusetts College of Art, which sometimes entailed my lugging a large painting-in-progress to work, hanging it on the wall behind my desk, and schlepping it to class. I like to think I temporarily improved the office decor.
14. And then there was the resumption of dance classes at the Joy of Movement studio in Cambridge. I had already studied ballet, tap, and jazz dance for years growing up, so it was great to get back into it. The music was more adventurous, too. Not that I minded dancing to all that Chopin and Bob Fosse as a child. It’s all good when you’re dancing.
15. I could go on. In a different lifetime or six, I would love to have been an opera singer, a jazz singer, an orchestra conductor, a choreographer, an actor/singer on Broadway, a playwright, a costume designer, or maybe a CG/film special effects artist for something like the Harry Potter franchise.
Damn. This whole working-for-a-living thing really sidetracks you, doesn’t it?